Caleb the Goy

In this article we will look at the key role that one very special Goy (Gentile) played in the Exodus from Egypt and the settling of the Promised Land. This man was none other than Kalev (Kah-lehv = Caleb), one of the two ‘good’ spies (the other was Joshua) who advised the children of Israel to take the land God had promised to them.

The Mixed Multitude

Exactly how Kalev, a Goy came to play such a prominent role in the leadership of the children of Israel is a mystery. It can only be assumed that he was one of the ‘mixed multitude’ that came out of Egypt along with the Israelites, for: “A mixed multitude went up with them also, …” (Ex. 12:38)

Just exactly who these people were is unknown. It can only be assumed that some of them were Egyptians, while the rest were a mixture of people from other countries. Some, like the children of Israel, may have come to Egypt to escape problems in their own countries and subsequently found themselves pressed into slavery. Others may have been brought there as captives from Egyptian conquests. Still others might have been free resident aliens. In any event, the entire group had enough presence of mind to attach themselves to the children of Israel, partake of the Passover Lamb, and gain the right to be removed from Egypt in the Exodus.

The ‘mixed multitude’ does not receive very good press in the Scriptures nor in the traditions of the Jews. They are often blamed for the problem of idolatry that befell the children of Israel in their forty year trek to the Promised Land. They also seem to have been quite good at complaining and getting the children of Israel stirred up against God:

“Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!'” (Num. 11:4-6)

According to Jewish tradition, the mixed multitude were the ones who forced Aharon (Aaron) to make the golden calf while Moshe (Mow-shay = Moses) was on Mount Sinai. However, the Jews do admit that many members of the children of Israel also participated in this idolatrous event, although they claim their sin was primarily not putting a stop to the actions of the mixed multitude.

Another story which casts doubt upon the character of the mixed multitude concerns the man who blasphemed HaShem and was subsequently stoned:

“Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite women’s son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.)” (Lev. 24:10-11)

Some assume that the reason this man blasphemed is because his father was an Egyptian and he had not been trained to show proper respect for the ways of HaShem. Whether this is true or not is only a matter of speculation, but the fact that the Scriptures mention the man’s genealogy does tend to lend credence to that interpretation.

Kalev’s Genealogy

With all of this negative input concerning people of the ‘mixed multitude,’ it seems unlikely that a man with as much stature as Kalev should come from non-Israelite stock. Yet that is the case.

Kalev is first introduced when Moses sent a group of twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan prior to their going in to take it from the resident tribes:

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the children of Israel; from each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a leader among them.’

“So Moses sent them from the Wilderness of Paran according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the children of Israel. “Now these were their names: … from the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh: …” (Num. 13:1-4, 6)

If one read only this passage it would be natural to draw the conclusion that Kalev was a native born son of the tribe of Judah. The key to unraveling the mystery is to find out the ethnic background of his father, Jephunneh. In the book of Joshua, we are told that Jephunneh is a Kenezzite: “… Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite …” (Josh. 14:14)

This genealogical line is confirmed in the book of Numbers: “… Caleb the son of Jephunneh, the Kenizzite, …” (Num. 32:12)

The Kenezzites are mentioned in the book of Genesis as being one of the groups of people whom the descendants of Avraham and Sarah were to displace when they took possession of the Promised Land:

“On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: ‘To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates — the Kenites, the Kenezzites, and the Kadmonites; the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Rephaim; the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.'” (Gen. 15:18-21)

According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the Kenezzites are descendants of a man named Kenaz. The ancestry of Kenaz can be found in Genesis chapter 36. The line we are interested in is the one stemming from Adah, the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

“Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom. Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, sister of Nebajoth.” (Gen. 36:1-3) “Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, …” (Gen. 36:4)

Eliphaz was the only son born to Adah and Esau: “And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz.” (Gen. 36:11)

So Kenaz is a grandson of Esau, the twin brother of Ya’acov or Jacob. It can be further established that Kalev is the grandson of Kenaz and therefore the great-great-grandson of Esau: “So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, …” (Josh. 15:17)

Here, Othniel is said to be the ‘brother’ of Kalev. However in a later passage he is said to be the ‘son’ of Kenaz: “The sons of Kenaz were Othniel and Seraiah. …The sons of Caleb the son of Jephunneh were Iru, Elah, and Naam.” (I Chron. 4:13, 15)

At first glance all of this may seem quite confusing, but it becomes clear when we understand that in Scripture near relatives, such as uncles, are sometimes referred to as ‘brothers,’ and grandchildren are sometimes called ‘children.’ In this case, it appears that Othniel was the son of Kenaz and would therefore be an ‘uncle’ of Kalev and a brother of Jephunneh. So why is Jephunneh not mentioned in the genealogical list of Kenaz? Perhaps because he was the son of a concubine (rather than the son of a full wife) and therefore ineligible for an inheritance. This could explain why Kalev was in Egypt, since he would have had a bleak future in Edom.

It is also possible that Kalev’s mother was from the tribe of Judah and that is how Kalev became attached to that particular tribe. However, this is only speculation and cannot be verified by Scripture or tradition.

It seems clear that God is making a strong statement here concerning His ‘Chosen People;’ that the character of a man is more important than his ethnicity. In any event the Scriptures make it clear that Kalev was the son of Jephunneh who was a Kenizzite. Thus, there can be no doubt that Kalev was a Goy.

The Name of Kalev

The name Kalev is very interesting. The literal meaning of the word is “forcible” (Strong’s 3612). However, it stems from a root word which means: “yelp, or else to attack; a dog…” (Strong’s 3611). The most common usage of this root word is the English word ‘dog,’ and in fact that is the only way it is used in the Hebrew Scriptures. One of the words used by the Jews of Yeshua’s day to describe a Gentile was ‘dog:’

“And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.’

“But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she cries out after us.’

“But He answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.'”

“Then she came and worshipped Him, saying, ‘Lord, help me!’

“But He answered and said, ‘It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’

“And she said, ‘True, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.’

“Then Jesus answered and said to her, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed from that very hour.” (Matt. 15:22-28)

The Canaanite woman knew that she was considered a ‘dog’ by the Jews and she accepted that term and used it to demonstrate her faith to Yeshua. In return, Yeshua honored her faith by performing the healing that was requested.

The Character of Kalev

Despite his questionable genealogy and ethnic makeup, Kalev, like the Canaanite woman just mentioned, must have demonstrated his unique ability as a man of character and also as a strong leader. For it was Kalev who was chosen to be the spy for the tribe of Judah even though he was a Goy, and not just any Goy but a descendant of Esau (an Edomite) as well. The Scriptures do not tell us exactly how the twelve spies were selected, if it was by God or by Moshe, it merely says: “These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land.” (Num. 13:16)

However, the job they were commissioned to do was very clear: “So Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said to them, ‘Go up this way into the South, and go up to the mountains, and see what the land is like: whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, few or many; whether the land they dwell in is good or bad; whether the cities they inhabit are like camps or strongholds; whether the land is rich or poor; and whether there are forests there or not. Be of good courage. And bring some of the fruit of the land. …'” (Num. 13:17-20)

The twelve spies spent forty days reconnoitering the land of Canaan. During this time, Kalev may well have been spying on his own people. After the forty days, the twelve spies returned with a mixed report:

“So they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.

“Then they told him, and said: ‘We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.'” (Num. 13:26-29)

The book of Deuteronomy fills in some of the blanks concerning this escapade. From there we learn that the reason Moshe sent the spies into the land in the first place is because the people were afraid to go in and take it:

“‘And everyone of you came near to me and said, “Let us send men before us, and let them search out the land for us, and bring back word to us of the way by which we should go up, and of the cities into which we shall come.” ‘And the plan pleased me well; …'” (Deut. 1:22-23)

But the report of the large fortified cities and the giant descendants of Anek made the children of Israel very afraid: “‘Nevertheless you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God; and you murmured in your tents … “Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.'” (Deut. 1:26-28)

However, there was one man who was definitely not afraid, that man was Kalev the Goy. In the face of all the crying and murmuring Kalev stood tall and told the people there was no need to be afraid. At that time Kalev was living up to the second meaning of his name. Instead of being a frightened ‘dog’ (goy), he began ‘yelping’ that the children of Israel should initiate a ‘forcible’ attack: “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, ‘Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.'” (Num. 13:30)

But Kalev’s voice was only one of two against ten: “But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.’ “And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.'” (Num. 13:31-33)

At this point, the children of Israel began their weeping and wailing once again. Some of them even counseled rebellion by suggesting that they replace Moshe with a different leader who would take them back to Egypt. Then Joshua joined with Kalev in a final admonition to the people:

“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, “a land which flows with milk and honey.” Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.'” (Num. 14:6-9)

Their thanks for bringing this message of hope was vilification by the masses: “And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. …” (Num. 14:10)

Kalev’s Reward

The result of this debacle concerning the taking of the land resulted in the children of Israel being forced to wait another thirty-eight years before they were allowed to enter the Promised Land. Added on to this were the two years they had already spent in the wilderness, for a total of forty years of wandering.

The only men from that generation to be allowed to enter the Promised Land were Joshua and Kalev, the two spies who encouraged the children of Israel to go in and take the land right away.

Joshua was a native of the tribe of Ephraim and he was entitled to a portion of land that could be passed on to his descendants. However, Kalev was considered to be a Goy and he did not have a legitimate claim to family property, even though he had been the spy for the tribe of Judah. This issue came to a head when it came time to begin divvying up the land among the members of the various tribes:

“Then the children of Judah came to Joshua in Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him: ‘You know the word which the LORD said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me in Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.

“‘Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the LORD my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, “Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, be-cause you have wholly followed the LORD my God.”

“‘And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the LORD spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old.’

“‘As yet I am as strong this day as I was on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the LORD spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the LORD said.'” (Josh. 14:6-12)

Kalev’s plea fell on sympathetic ears. Joshua agreed that Kalev’s descendants should reap the reward for the great service their father did for his adopted people, the children of Israel: “And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.” (Joshua 14:13-14)

It is significant that Kalev is referred too three times in chapter 14 as being “Caleb the son of Jephunneh” and twice as being a “Kenizzite.” It is clear that, if Joshua had not intervened, Kalev would not have received a land inheritance because he was a Goy.

A Lesson for Today

The reason Kalev received both the blessing of being allowed to enter the Promised Land and also gained an inheritance there, is because he “wholly followed the LORD God of Israel.” Even though he was named “dog” and carried the epithet of a Goy all of his life, in the end he prevailed over all of his adopted Israelite brothers with the exception of Joshua.

Not only did he ‘wholly’ follow God, he also showed the entire nation of Israel what it meant to have total faith in God, to trust that what He had promised would be accomplished. All of us need to learn this lesson of Kalev; to follow the God of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya’acov with all of our heart and mind, and to trust Him completely with our life.

Whether we be Jewish, a descendant of the ‘lost’ tribes of the House of Israel, or a purebred Gentile makes absolutely no difference when it comes to being made righteous through the blood of Yeshua HaMashiach: “…for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, …” (Rom. 3:23)

And likewise: “…God our Savior, … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:3b-4)

Let us all stand fast as a united people no matter what our ethnic or racial background might be, as we await that great day when Abba, our Father in heaven, sends His Son Yeshua the Messiah to fetch His Bride to the Chuppah (wedding chamber):

“‘And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, Who shall stand as a banner to the people; For the Gentiles shall seek Him, And His resting place shall be glorious.’

“That the LORD shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, From Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea.

“He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

“Also the envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim. … “And in that day you will say:… ‘Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation.'” (Isaiah 12:10-13, 12:1-2)


We received a call from an Orthodox Jewish man who Ö did some research. He directed us to the Talmud, Sotah 11b where we found the following:

“And Caleb the son of Hezron begat chil-dren of Azubah his wife and of Jerioth; and these were her sons: Jesher and Shobab and Ardon. (I Chron. II, 18) ‘The son of Hezron’? He was the son of Jephunneh! (V. Num. XIII, 6) {It means} that he was a son who turned {panah} from the counsel of the spies. Still, he was the son of Kenaz, as it is written. And Othoniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it! (Judg. I, 13) — Raba said; He was the stepson of Kenaz. {12a} There is also evidence for this, since it is written, {And Caleb the son of Jephunneh} the Kenizzite. (Josh. XIV, 6 and not the son of Kenaz.)”

In other words, the Rabbis claim that Kalev and Othoniel were half-brothers and that the reason Kalev is called a Kennizite is because he was raised by his step-father Kenaz, who was the actual father of Othoniel. They say that Kalev’s actual father was Hezron who was a son of Pharez who was, in turn, the off-spring of Judah and Tamar.

While this view obviously has merit, the question still remains as to why Kalev, if he were indeed a great-grandson of Judah, would have to get special dispensation from Joshua in order to inherit land? It would seem that such a right would have come to him naturally if he had been a full-blooded descendant of Judah.

In any event, the principle expressed in the article (of having a Goy being given full-fledged citizenship in one of the Tribes of Israel) still stands, just as it does today in Judaism. Of course, once a Gentile is fully converted, they are no longer considered a Gentile, rather they are considered a child of Abraham and Sarah (one of the tribe).


Epstein, Rabbi Dr. I, The Babylonian Talmud, Seder Nashim Vol. III, The Soncino Press, London, 1936.

The Open Bible, The New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1985.

Strong, James, S.T.D., L.L.D., Strong’s New Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, World Bible Publishers, Inc., Iowa Falls, 1986.

Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux, LL.D., Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1979.

Weissman, Rabbi Moshe, The Midrash Says, Benei Yakov Publications, Brooklyn, 1980.

Wigram, George V., The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the Old Testament, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1980.

By Dean & Susan Wheelock.

Source: Caleb the Goy (

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